Dynamic range is the range between the brightest and the darkest part that camera can see. It is measured in Stops, rather than F stops.
When you take pictures, you sometimes don`t see details in the dark such as in shadows, or in the brightest areas such as the view outside the window.
This is because cameras have much lower dynamic range compared to our human eyes. Our eyes are able to look at the scene and automatically adjust and see details in the shadow and the sky. Cameras are not that good and no camera has dynamic range like our eyes.
Cameras are improving to capture more details in dark and white. i.e. Higher dynamic range.
Nowadays you have cameras with wider dynamic range that can capture up to 11-14 stops of light. (Some say our eyes can see up to 20stops, you can understand our eyes are better than cameras)
If in a scene, an area is brighter than what the camera thinks it is the ultimate white, then it becomes completely lost, clipped, solid white. Anything beyond what camera thinks it is black, the details are lost. Textures and shadows disappear. If you brighten up the image, you will see noise appearing.
Over the white limit of camera, it is called “Clipping”
Over the dark limit of camera, it is called “Crashing”
You usually have to chose whether you want to brighten up or darken the image. Make a sacrifice. Chose what is the most important feature in the picture to be properly lit.
Dynamic range is about retaining the detail to make the image look stronger and beautiful.
This is partly why you see people using reflectors and lights to bring up the dark part so they can capture both the brightest and the darkest part of the image. It makes the image look richer in details. You see more details between black and white.
How do you deal with capturing all the lights?
○You usually have to adjust the iris, ND filters and shutter speed to adjust the lights.
○Some cameras can shoot RAW, it can captures 11 -14 stops of data. This is higher than its standard record setting. When you shoot in this mode, the contrast of the image looks flat, it will look washed out. But the idea is you adjust it in the post production. This is good if you are considering colour correction at the end.
○HDR (High dynamic range) takes the brightest part of the picture and shift it down to make it look darker. On the other hand it makes the dark part look brighter, so you can see more details in the picture.
○Some people use graduated ND filters to darken the sky, i.e. knock off few Stops. http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/grads.htm
I hope this helps! Leave a comment!
I am a documentary/News cameraman based in London.